Sermon – 18 February – Lynn

St Laurence`s – 18th February – Lynn Hellmuth

1st Sunday in Lent

The new phase of ministry had been recognised and affirmed in the presence of God and the people.
And the question in everyone’s mind was what happens next?
After all the waiting, there was an expectation, a hope, of swift positive action, even though if truth were told there might not have been much agreement between the onlookers about the form that action should take.
Imagine then the surprise and probable disappointment, felt by many when after his baptism Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days, seemingly not doing much at all.
Though of course we know from the Gospel accounts that in those 40days he was praying, reflecting on Scripture and facing head on malign challenges regarding the shape and focus of his ministry.
Jesus new phase of ministry, which we mark in the season of Lent that we have just embarked upon, started not with action in the way we normally conceive of it, but with a period of waiting upon God. And undoubtedly the principles and priorities that emerged from that time of reflection profoundly shaped the more overtly active 3 years of ministry that followed.
This period of 40 days of active waiting at the beginning of a new phase in God’s plan is a motif throughout the Bible.
Before Noah and his family along with all those animals experienced freedom and the rainbow sign of God’s everlasting covenant [that we heard about in our 1st reading] they experienced 40 days of rain cooped up together in an ark, probably doing not much beyond shovelling all the animal manure that kept piling up.
Later Moses spent 40 days with God on the top of Mount Sinai before he came down with the 10 commandments and the law.
And later still Elijah journeyed for 40 days to Mount Horeb where he received his revelation of God, not found in the earthquake, or the fire, but in the still small whisper.
In all of these cases, an extended period of waiting preceded a time of significant action, blessing and a change of direction and focus.
I am sure Jesus had these examples in mind as he lived through his 40 days in the wilderness, as indeed the early church did in establishing a period of 40 days of prayer and reflection before Easter, first of all just for those to be baptised at Easter and then extended to all believers.
My first full day as your Vicar was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent and that happenstance reinforced the conviction I already had that this new phase in the ministry of this Benefice, and my ministry, should be marked by an extended period of waiting upon God as individuals, as churches, and as a Benefice.
Over the next few weeks my first priority will be prayer and waiting upon God. Alongside this I expect to be engaged in 2 other p`s “perambulating around the parishes” and “pondering” what God might be saying to me and to us together.
These will be my priorities during this early phase of my ministry and to make space for them please bear with me if there are other things I don’t do that you might hope or even think I SHOULD do.
This is a big benefice and God has called me to work in each of the parishes.It will not be possible for me to do everything everyone hopes I might. That is why it is so important I spend time in prayer before God discerning the way ahead for me and for us.
I will be letting you know next Sunday about opportunities to pray together in each o f the churches in the Benefice during Lent, and as well as hoping many of you join me in prayer in the churches from time to time, I invite each of you please to include individual prayer for this church and this Benefice as part of your Lenten discipline this year.
And in prayer I would encourage you not just to talk to God about what is on your heart for this church and Benefice but also to set time to listen to Him, perhaps setting 5 or minutes aside a day to rest in silence before Him and to discover what He might communicate to you, through words, images and other ways when you are still before Him.
Some of you may be comfortable with silently waiting before God in this way, and have lots to teach me on the subject, but others may feel beginners at this sort of prayer, and keen to learn more. This will be something I hope to share about and model in the coming weeks up to Easter and beyond.
A new phase in my ministry and in the ministry of this church and this Benefice has just begun.
It was recognised and affirmed on Tuesday night in the presence of God and His people.
After the long vacancy of nearly 2 years I recognise the question “what happens next?” is in the hearts of many of you. My answer is that my focus for these 40 days and beyond will be on watching and praying, and I invite you to join me in doing so.
The time for more overt action will come, I am sure. But this time of prayer is far from wasted time.
As the great Christian leader Oswald Chambers said “We think of prayer as a preparation for work, or a calm after having done work, whereas prayer is the essential work.”
It is the foundation, the preparation, for all that may follow.
It is this essential first phase of ministry that we embark on now.
Please join me.
Let us pray…..
Lord
In your way and in your time that’s how its going to be in my life.
And in your perfect way I`ll rest my weary mind
And as you lead I’ll follow close behind
And I will wait and I will not regret the time
In your time there is rest
There is rest.